For parents of young kids, like my wife and me, photos have become an inextricable part of how we think about our family, both within our household and amongst all of our relatives. Photo documentation for the benefit of all of our loved ones — grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends of all kinds — is now a part of raising kids in a way that it never was before the advent of the digital camera.
In some ways, it’s easier than ever for us to get images of our kids to those who care about them most, but in other ways it’s still much harder than it should be, too. I know for a fact that the sheer number of venues for sharing has made it difficult for my parents and in-laws to keep up with the images that Laura and I post to Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and other services. And truth be told, even I frequently miss some of the photos that Laura posts, too.
I started thinking about this problem last fall; why shouldn’t it be possible to knit these services together via email, the most universally accessible channel that we have? All we’d really need to solve this problem would be an automated service that rounds up all of the kid-related content that Laura and I post each week and then sends it out in a summary email. It wouldn’t require either of us to post to any new services or change our current sharing behaviors, and it would only ask our relatives to do something they’re already doing: check their email. It seemed like something that really ought to exist.
After talking this problem through with my friends Matt and Mike and finding that everyone we asked thought it was a good idea, we decided to go ahead and build it for real. Today we’re pre-announcing Kidpost, a service which bundles up your kid-related content from your social network accounts into a private, weekly email that gets sent to family members and friends of your choosing.
We’re deep in development for it right now, but our ambition for Kidpost is to build something incredibly simple and lightweight. Once you authorize Kidpost to access your various accounts, it will simply watch for posts that you tag appropriately, and will aggregate them automatically. That’s all you have to do. As the account holders, parents control the content of the emails and who receives them — you can add as many people as you like to your email group, and the recipients don’t need to sign up for new accounts or download apps or visit a new service of any kind.
Kidpost will be ready this spring, but as we build it we want to solicit feedback from interested parents and relatives. If you sign up on our home page now, we’ll give you early access, and we’ll also give you a discount on the paid plan when it launches. Just head on over to Kidpost.net. And watch this space for future updates!
From time to time, I get asked to bring back the “Hel-F’ing-Vetica” shirts that I first ran many years ago. Last week I finally got around to accommodating those requests via Spreadshirt, which allows users to print tee-shirts on-demand. They have a process called flex printing that is very close to traditional silkscreening, which even allowed me to run the design with a bit of silver, shown here on a heather gray American Apparel tee:
Even better, because the Spreadshirt route allows me to sell without having to hold inventory, customers can now get this design on long-sleeved tees, hoodies and — finally — women’s tees, too. You can visit my Spreadshirt shop here to get yours for the holidays!
Today my friend Matt and I are releasing Facebox, a pack of fifty, rights-cleared stock photos of real people for user interface design and business presentations. For a limited time, you can buy the pack for just US$25.
So how would you use Facebox? Let’s say you’re designing any digital product in which the concept of users needs to be represented — in comment threads, on profile pages, in activity streams, etc. Whether you’re working in Photoshop or Sketch or right in HTML, sooner or later you need photos of hypothetical users to stand in for the real users who will eventually interact with your product.
Or let’s say you’re working on a PowerPoint deck in which you’re showing user personas or user flows, or maybe even revealing a new strategy that will bring huge numbers of new patrons to your business. For any of these purposes, you might need pictures of hypothetical customers to stand in for the real customers to come.
As a designer, I come across these situations all the time. What I used to do was go to Twitter or Facebook and grab the avatars of my friends. That has its drawbacks: it’s laborious, the avatars are usually of insufficient resolution to be used at any larger size, and they’re not always suitable for presentations. Worse, it’s not exactly legal.
This is the problem that Facebox solves. It provides a rights-cleared, ready-to-use repository of fifty real people — not stagey-looking models, but the kind of people you’d run into on any street corner, and whom you could easily imagine using just about any digital product.
The pack includes all fifty faces as PNGs or JPEGs you can start using immediately. We’ve also imported all fifty into PowerPoint, Keynote, OmniGraffle (as a symbol library) and Sketch, too. We’re also including the original Photoshop file, fully set up with Smart Objects, so you can change the crop shape (several options are included, e.g., circle, rounded rectangle, star, etc.) in just a few clicks, and export at any size that suits you.
My friend Matt and I spent a few days earlier this week working on a new side project. It’s called Facebox and it’s almost ready. Starting today if you sign up for the launch at Facebox.io, we’ll give you a discount on the debut pricing too.
Technically Facebox will live on the Internet, but part of its appeal to us was that it was a project that would let us get up from our desks and get into the real world. In fact, it practically required us to walk all over New York City in order to get it done. We lucked out; the weather around here has been unseasonably, almost unconscionably pleasant for August.
So what is Facebox? I’m not going to explain too much about it now except to say that it’s built for designers. It’s also decidedly not huge or world-changing in any respect; it’s small and specific, focused on a relatively minor problem that nevertheless plagues designers everywhere. It’s one of those things that Matt and I have both found ourselves wanting many times, but we never found that anyone had bothered to build it, so we decided to do it ourselves. Anyway, you’ll find out when it launches, which should be in just a week or two. For now, sign up to hear about the launch.
It’s no secret that this blog has been operating at a reduced pace for some time now. I’m struggling to post much of anything, and I’m utterly failing in writing the kind of stuff I would like to be writing: longer and (hopefully) more substantive essays than what’s been posted recently, the kind that I used to turn out regularly.
And it’s hardly the case that I’ve been stumped for topics to post about, either. To the contrary, all sorts of blog post ideas continue to occur to me at all times. Often I’ll start mentally drafting them, anticipating a free moment when I can type them out and turn them into real posts that get published on this site — you know, like a blogger would do. But then a very busy day goes by, and two or three more, and before long the post no longer seems timely or unique and the moment is gone.
A few months ago the prolific Debbie Millman, design honcho at Sterling Brands and chair of SVA’s new Masters in Branding program, invited me to be a guest on her awesome Design Matters podcast, where she’s been interviewing notable design professionals for years. It was an incredibly flattering invitation, and I had originally been slated to guest back in February, but a family emergency forced me to cancel at the last minute.
So late last month I was finally able to make it to Debbie’s studio, which is located in the swank new offices for her masters program, and sat down with her to record an interview. It aired last Friday but you can listen to it at your leisure here. Based on all the episodes I’ve listened to in the past, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Debbie had questions for me across the full span of my career. What struck me was that she was so well prepared though; she really does her homework in advance of these interviews, which I think was why it was so fun. Have a listen for yourself.
Last week, after attending SXSW in Austin, I flew to Minneapolis to give a talk at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, as part of their amazing Insights series. The folks at the Walker are incredible; not just as designers and propagators of design culture, but also as hosts, I had a great time.
For the past week or so, I’ve been playing with a slightly different kind of content here at Subtraction.com. This is something I talked about in a recent post in which I rambled on about the state of several different blog tools; I’m now experimenting with Tumblr-style image blogging that in most cases is purely about the image, with only a short line of additional text, if any. Here’s one example. (There are still some kinks to be worked out, so bear with me.)
This might seem unremarkable to regular readers since I already publish short, image-heavy, posts with just a bit of text. On the back-end though, it’s quite different, or at least meaningfully different. With the help of my friend Adam Khan, we’ve customized an ExpressionEngine ‘channel’ that presents a much more succinct publishing interface than the one I normally use. In essence, there are fewer fields to fill out and the fields themselves are physically smaller, which dissuades me from writing at any great length. On top of that, we’ve cooked up a bookmarklet that drives a simple script for grabbing images and auto-populating the forms, so creating a new post when I come across something I like only takes a few clicks.
None of this is novel in the least, as plenty of Web apps already do this much better than what we cooked up in an ad hoc fashion. But it’s long been a struggle for me to post here as regularly as I’d like, especially as my schedule just keeps getting busier and busier, so anything that makes it easier for me is something worth experimenting with. It’s also a useful reminder that interface design does matter — having a simpler, more concise publishing U.I. directly influences the kind of content that gets produced.
To be clear, this does not mean I’m giving up on posting longer pieces of real writing here. I still enjoy that a great deal; it’s just a matter of finding the time. Hopefully this supplemental style of blogging will help fill the void, but if you have any thoughts on how successful — or unsuccessful — it is, please let me know in the comments.
The good folks at Wire & Twine and I are bringing back my Hel-Fucking-Vetica tee-shirts just in time for the holidays. These shirts have been enormously popular, selling out of all of their previous runs, and they haven’t been available for four years. Now until 5 Dec, you can pre-order from a brand new run and get your very own. If you’re in the U.S., they should get to you in plenty of time for Christmas. The shirts are just US$25 each, and because this is a pre-orders period (a very short one!), all sizes are in stock.